Teaching English

For the last six weeks I have been teaching English here in Brisbane to a gentleman from Iran. His name is Jalal, he is 69 years old and a civil engineer by trade. His is now retired and lives six months here in Australia and six months in Iran. His son, first posted on Gumtree looking for a Canadian English teacher in Brisbane because Jalal and his wife would eventually be leaving in the next few months to Canada to visit friends and travel around the country.

At first it was pretty difficult to teach English for a number of reasons. First, I didn’t know what his skill level or knowledge of the English language. Mostly, I didn’t know what I was supposed to be teaching or where to start. So this is how it went….

I started by asking him what he wanted to learn the most. He described that he wanted to learn how to do a contract and business negotiations for developing commercial construction. This was important to him because he regularly dealt with business people internationally and wanted to be better at making deals and negotiations. Also, simple English conversations and grammar but mostly surrounding speaking. This was because he wanted to have more English speaking people over at his home to After the first few days the whole teaching thing went great, I had printed him off a few charts and exercises teaching him the basics for past, present future. He loved these and always asked for more. These exercises he did at home and during the two hours we met each day we had simple conversations in English. We had discussed almost everything under the sun, often talking about both Iran and Canada by just comparing different subjects. Marriage, climate change, young and old, different generations, cultures, traditions, building huge projects, etc. Some days he would also bring us walnuts, teas, and herbs that he had brought to Australia from his farm in Iran.

While he would be talking and describing things to me I would correct his sentences and teach him new ways to say the same thing. I noticed a lot of improvement by the end of six weeks and so did he. In fact, Jalal told me at the end, “every time I go to the store, coffee shop, or when talking with Australians I think, ‘Shaun taught me that.’”

Teaching English can be rewarding; I feel like I had learnt more throughout this process than I had taught. For example, the similarities and differences between the Persian and English cultures, different generations, and across boundaries. In his last week here, he invited Kaisa and I over for dinner with his family which was such a fun and pleasant evening looking through their photos and learning more about Iran. This summer we hope to meet Jalal and his wife in Vancouver when they come to Canada, moreover, we hope to also see their home and farm in Iran. Teaching English is a great way to travel by earning extra money on the side, learning about new cultures, and making new friends.


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